A crazy idea
The intrepid visionary then had to learn more about the world of distillation. For one year, he toured distilleries in the United States. “California, Florida, Louisiana… I visited a good 20 places. Surprisingly, not one of them had functional equipment. And none were able to tell me how many bottles they had sold,” he states.
He had no intention of making a distillery that would be just a hobby, nor of hiding it away in a secret shed somewhere. He was going all the way! “The trend now is to learn about the provenance of foods and to watch the chef at work. That’s what guided me towards an artisanal facility in a transparent space and the creation of unique recipes made from 100% local products. From the grain to the glass, everything is made in-house,” he says.
With his natural charisma and iron will, our “adrenaline-burning hustler” was able to convince his backers. Five million in investments and three years of construction later, the factory was in place. In the spring of 2018, everything was ready to start bottling. First appeared a light vodka with 30% alcohol, followed by Waxwing Bohemian Gin, which is already ranked amongst Quebec’s best gins, then Kilinger Rye, a rye-and-corn-based rye whisky, and Mayhaven, the country’s first ginger liqueur.
Each product was inspired by a non-conforming artist — a perfume maker, a pyrotechnician, a DJ — which is where the name AiR, or “Artist in Residence,” comes from, not to mention its location next to the airport. “In fact, Pierre is the artist!” explains Pat Chartrand, AiR’s Marketing Director, smiling. “He’s the one with drive, and we’re here to drive the rest of the team.”
In line to become the largest distillery in Quebec in terms of volume, AiR Distillerie produces 300,000 bottles annually and will soon have a dozen brands on the market in Quebec, Ontario and South America. Mantha’s next challenge? To make the distillery a tourist destination renowned for its tastings from Toronto to Los Angeles. “I want Quebecers to be proud of what we’ve accomplished, of what we’ve made here. And this is just the start!”